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Salt 12A, 100 mins Marmaduke U, 88 mins HAVING tried to save the world by adopting all of its spare children, Angelina Jolie returns to cinema with a more traditional take on preserving the globe - involving blowing large bits of it up.

The eponymous Salt is a straight forward stab at a Bourne-esque franchise, lifting almost everything from the Matt Damon vehicle, including a bleached colour pallete and plenty of frenetic action.

Opening "two years ago" in North Korea, we find Jolie stripped to her underwear, bound and covered in blood and, shockingly, blonde.

She's released with the help of her arachnologist boyfriend and we flash forward to their spider-strewn apartment, on their wedding anniversary. At CIA HQ in Washington, Evelyn Salt is set to leave for the day, when she and her boss are called to interrogate a Russian defector Orlov who accuses Salt of being part of a cell of Russian sleeper spies.

Salt, he claims, will kill the Russian President at the American vice president's funeral in New York.

Responding in a sensible fashion, shouting "I'm not a goddamn Russian spy" before blasting her way out of the building and jumping from truck to truck in a car chase, she sets about clearing her name.

While crowds mass round a church before the vice president's funeral, Salt evades her CIA colleagues and slips into the church vault to carry out the assassination. But is she really a sleeper spy? In a role originally written for a male lead, Jolie makes a decent fist of a slightly patchy production.

Luckily, Brit Chiwetel Ejiofor is on form as the counter-intelligence officer who chases Salt throughout the film, and is integral to the final scene that sets up a sequel.

Never one of the funnier comic strips, Marmaduke manages to shed what little charm it ever possessed on the big screen.

Marmaduke, voiced by Owen Wilson, is a lumbering Great Dane with a nose for trouble who is as steady on his feet as Wilson's career at this point. His owners decide to uproot their family, transplanting Marmaduke and the family cat, to the other side of the country.

As the Great Dane gets used to Laguna Beach, he makes friends with three outcast dogs, who introduce him to the Bark Park, where a fearsome Rottweiler called Bosco played by Kiefer Sutherland) rules.

There are a couple of decent gags in Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio's linear script, like when dogs are soaked to the bone in a storm and one of the critters whimpers, 'It's raining cats and us!" And the film builds to a climactic sequence that washes away the sins of the past. But overall, it's probably only worth the trip if you're desperate to keep the kids quiet.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 20, 2010
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